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Off-Kilter

June 24, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Space-Age Cemeteries: Not that we are in a rush to die or anything, but scientists keep coming up with new and enchanting ideas for burial. According to the Wall Street Journal, cemetery scientists are working on:

* Hologram tombstones that will project 3-D images of the dead.

* Computerized grave markers that can be programmed to simulate a corpse's former personality, allowing visitors to carry on virtual-reality conversations with the dead.

* Orbiting crematories that can beam down digital radio signals so survivors can "listen to Uncle Ernie as he passes over every night."

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Ohio, a company called Leif Technologies has begun marketing a $6,000 tombstone equipped with a small computer screen that displays up to 256 electronic pages of words and photos. Powered by a 10-year battery (or solar cells), the device is made of stainless steel for protection against vandalism and weather. Think of it as a 1990s version of the hieroglyphics found inside King Tut's tomb.

For modern pharaohs on a budget, Leif also offers a $1,295 memorial brass disc that attaches to any grave. Visitors simply bring a laptop computer to the cemetery, connect it to the disc and download the person's life story.

Billboard of the Day: Spotted on local freeways, "Rain, snow, asteroids, whatever." It's an ad for the Chevy Blazer.

Weird Polls Department: Now that the June election season has passed, pollsters can get back to asking more important questions. For example, a survey by Maxim magazine discovered that:

* 75% of readers would rather kill themselves with a steak knife than sit through an episode of "Touched by an Angel."

* If given a choice of superpowers, 60% would take invisibility over superhuman strength.

* 70% would rather stomp barefoot on broken whiskey bottles than watch "Riverdance" for 24 hours straight.

In another survey, Access Communications questioned Internet users ages 18 to 34 and found that a majority consider Luke Skywalker a bigger hero than Jesus Christ or Martin Luther King Jr. (This reminds us of John Lennon's infamous comparison of the Beatles to Jesus.) The Internetniks also ranked the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger as the "defining moment of the generation"--above the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War and the debut of Nintendo (which was ranked higher than the Oklahoma City bombing).

The biggest villains were, in order, Saddam Hussein, Barney the dinosaur, O.J. Simpson and the IRS.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Fans Worldwide Shed 3 Million Gallons of Tears for Frank Sinatra . . . Enough to Fill 90 Olympic Swimming Pools!" (Weekly World News)

By way of comparison, global crying over the deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana filled a mere 35 and 77 Olympic pools, respectively. The calculations are based on alleged surveys and research by the Breirman-Hefler Institute, which figures it takes 42 people crying for 20 minutes to produce a gallon of tears. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was probably history's biggest tear-jerker, said an institute spokesman, but "that is just a guess [because] official tear flow statistics weren't kept back then."

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Contributors: Colors magazine, Wireless Flash News Service

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